Equal Standing and Proper Reliance on Others

Theoria (forthcoming)

Carla Bagnoli
University of Modena
According to a traditional account, moral cognition is an achievement gained over time by sharing a practice under the guidance and the example of the wise, in analogy with craft and apprenticeship. This model captures an important feature of practical reason, that is, its incompleteness, and highlights our dependence on others in obtaining moral knowledge, coherently with the socially extended mind agenda and recent findings in empirical psychology. Insofar as it accords to exemplars decisive authority to determine the standard of correctness for moral cognition, however, the model does not offer protection against arbitrariness and discrimination. The article argues that to understand the socially distributed nature of practical knowledge, we have to discard the notion of exemplars and reconceive of others as peers, i.e. having equal normative standing. This claim allows us to revisit the conception of autonomy as key to distributed practical knowledge. While autonomy does not amount to self-sufficiency and self-reliance, it does demand independence of judgment and stands in contrast to servility, submission, and other sorts of defective ways of relying on others. The requirement of equal standing provides the basis or distinguishing between proper and improper reliance on others.
Keywords autonomy  respect  recognition  distributed knowledge  equal standing
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